The Last Minivan Battle? Orders Open for the AWD Chrysler Pacifica

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
the last minivan battle orders open for the awd chrysler pacifica

Seating, fuel economy, and traction: these are the three areas in which the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica and all-new Toyota Sienna will do battle, though neither of these vehicles is a direct match for the other.

In the shrinking minivan segment, the urge to offer everything a buyer might want has led us to this point. Orders opened for the all-wheel drive Pacifica on Friday — a product that Chrysler hopes will give would-be crossover buyers food for thought. In the Toyota corner, standard hybrid power and available AWD greets buyers for 2021. Similar beasts, but not at all identical.

Will seating decide the victor?

It could come down to that. But back up a moment first. The model now available for ordering is not the redesigned 2021 Pacifica, but the 2020 Pacifica AWD Launch Edition — a driveshaft-equipped current-generation vehicle kitted out in Touring L guise (with S Appearance package) that arrives in the third quarter of 2020. Seems Chrysler couldn’t wait to get this feature on the market.

The Pacifica boasts two pros and one con, in that its AWD system is a mechanical one, capable of sending 100 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels, yet still capable of handling the brand’s Stow ‘n Go seating. Make those captain’s chairs disappear. The model’s drawback is that AWD cannot be combined with hybrid propulsion.

Toyota’s gambit is to make every Sienna a hybrid (though not a plug-in), with AWD offered through the addition of an extra electric motor placed atop the rear axle. Eighty percent of the vehicle’s driving force can funnel into those back wheels, operating independent of the engine. No mechanical connection here. Greater efficiency come standard in this rig, but the Sienna can’t make its seats sink into the floor.

However, the center second-row seat can be removed, and the cabin can be outfitted with captain’s chairs that not only slide fore and aft up to 25 inches, as well as side to side, but can also coddle passengers with a limo-like ottoman footrests. Comfort over versatility.

Which combo will win over buyers? That’s for the public to ultimately decide. In the meantime, the Pacifica AWD Launch Edition carries a lofty sticker of $40,240, with 2021 trims and pricing still unknown. Packing a new look and a greater level of standard safety features and convenience tech, the ’21 model arrives in the fourth quarter.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler, Toyota]

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4 of 32 comments
  • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Jun 08, 2020

    What percentage of Siennas sold are AWD? Unless the percentage is much I higher than I assume then why is FCA spending some of their limited resources on this? Meanwhile the CVP Caravan which was regularly advertised at under $21k is now being listed/advertised at over $26k. Is this because there is a huge demand for these vehicles so FCA does not have to discount them? Or is it because FCA executives are purposely pricing the Caravan too high in order to justify its execution and to try to drive purchasers to the Pacifica? If I was running FCA I would invest around $500 in better parts for Caravan and offer a 10 year warranty and continue to manufacture them for years to come.

    • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Jun 08, 2020

      IIRC for some years the AWD option on the Sienna was only available with the top trims. The AWD Sienna became a bit of a status symbol in some communities, usually those that culturally were more likely to observe traditional gender roles with the male as the sole breadwinner. (At least this is what I have observed.)

  • Conundrum Conundrum on Jun 09, 2020

    Pacifica can send 100% of the torque to the rear wheels? Like any of these single inline to the rear axle clutch AWD things, only if the front wheels are spinning over the ditch you almost plopped into. Still better than nothing I guess. The lack of mechanical knowledge of today's "pundits" continues apace. And the PR types who feed 'em press releases are just as gormless, assigning front/rear torque split feats of glory to cheap AWD that are mechanically impossible in normal driving.

    • Kosmo Kosmo on Jun 09, 2020

      Not sure whether you're right or wrong, but there IS a nice write up on the AWD system over on Jalopnik.

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